LOS ANGELES – Another year, another underachievement.
The season ended for the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon with a disappointing 104-91 loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round series.
“They beat us,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of the series as a whole. “Give Utah credit. They won the series. We fought our butts off. … They won the series, and I think they should get the congratulations. There’s no excuses. We lost.”
DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 24 points and 17 rebounds, while Jamal Crawford put in 20 points off the bench on 8-of-16 shooting. Chris Paul struggled, scoring only 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field with nine assists.
The Clippers trailed by as many as 21 points in the game when Derrick Favors made a free throw after Gordon Hayward’s 3-pointer with about four minutes left in the third quarter. The Clippers fought back in the fourth and pulled to within eight on J.J. Redick’s first basket of the game – a 3-pointer – with 3:28 left in the game.
The Jazz responded wth four straight points to seal the victory.
The Clippers first fell behind by double digits in the second quarter. Jordan missed a dunk off a lob pass from Austin Rivers, and George Hill came right back and scored, giving Utah a 41-30 lead.
But a run by the Clippers helped them get to within 46-39 at halftime.
Los Angeles shot poorly from the 3-point line for the game – just 6 of 25 – and had only 17 assists to Utah’s 22.
“We just didn’t move the ball great as a whole group,” Rivers said.
Hayward had a game-high 26 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while George Hill contributed 17 points. Favors played almost 30 minutes with Rudy Gobert in foul trouble all night and had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Utah shot 50.6% from the field and 46.2% from the 3-point line. The Clippers lost the battle in the paint, only scoring 46 while the Jazz had 56.
Clippers forward Paul Pierce played his final game in an NBA uniform on Sunday.
He played 19 seasons and won an NBA championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.
“I gave every ounce that I could to this game,” Pierce told reporters in the locker room after the game. “I gave it everything.”
He scored six points and played 21 minutes on Sunday.
Blake Griffin, Paul and Redick are all free agents come July 1.
The team recently made it known that it wants to keep all three of those players, according to ESPN. But after several years of the Paul-Griffin-Jordan core underachieving in the postseason, the Clippers go into the offseason with some decisions to make.
“Luckily that’s not my job,” Paul said of what the team needs to do for it to have more success next season. “My job is to come in, try to make sure I’m in the best shape possible, try to lead our team and stuff like that. That’s not my job to maneuver who’s here and who’s there.”
After Sunday’s game, Rivers said the team needs to figure out whether or not the core group on the team will stay together moving forward. He added that he wasn’t thinking about the summer yet, but rather Sunday’s loss.
“I’m sure everyone will have their own suggestions,” Rivers said. “We’ve been reading our obituary for about three months now, so I’m sure everyone will have that.”